“I heard,” Shay had said once, “about a lesbian couple who slept together every night,” she had twisted her face considerably, “until the parents came to visit. Then, they would set up another cot, and pretend to be roommates.” She had had the lunch table captivated. “I mean,” she added. “If you’re already as fucked up as they are, I’m sure it’s nothing to keep lying to your parents like that. I mean, I’m sure that they would get their kids help. They just didn’t know.”
The story wasn’t that funny, but the table had exploded with laughter. June had held her hand to her mouth and giggled. Victoria had leaned her head down, looking at her lunch, but I could hear the ringing chuckles escape from her hidden face. Charlotte had smiled, but hadn’t looked up from her phone, which was unlike her, but she was texting with some cute boy from her english class. And I-- I threw my head back like a little kid. I opened my mouth and laughed, my shoulders shaking as I did. I laughed like she had told the funniest joke I had ever heard.
I sit in my ninth period health class, thinking about nothing, and drumming my fingers on the desk. My nails were bitten to the quick, so my impatience made no sound. I thought about what I would do after the bell rang. I was supposed to meet Shay and Victoria for coffee, but I didn’t really want to. I tried to come up with a plausible excuse, but couldn’t really think of anything. Charlotte had a date, so I couldn’t be with her. I had already said I was free, and there were only so many times you could say you’re not feeling well before everyone stops turning a blind eye. I sighed. Maybe I would just have to go. It wouldn’t be that bad. It was just coffee after all. It was just hopping in Shay’s SUV and driving two miles into town and ordering pastries and hot drinks and watching out the window and gossiping about everyone who walked by. It would only take an hour. After an hour I could have a “lot of homework” and walk home. It would be fine.
The girl next to me had perfectly curled, naturally red hair, and green eyes. I watched her out of the corner of my eye, while still doodling absentmindedly in my notebook. Notes notes notes notes notes notes notes notes, I wrote again and again, looking up at the teacher occasionally. As long as it seemed like I was paying attention, I was fine.
The red haired girl shifted in her seat, clearly as bored as I was. I glanced at the clock. Seven minutes.
I raised my hand slowly.
“Yes?” Mr. Taylor peered at me over his glasses, and I winced, but refused to shrink away when his gaze fall distinctly below my face.
I cleared my throat. “May I go to the bathroom?”
He glanced at the clock. “Class is almost over, can it wait?”
My cheeks reddened a bit. “Not really, no.”
He sighed, finally meeting my eyes. “Okay then, just be back quick.”
I smiled and shut my notebook, standing and walking to the door. I opened it, and stepped out into the hall. Thank God. I turned and walked towards the bathroom, but cut through the gym to turn out near my locker, on the other side of the school. I put in the combination, twice, the first time didn’t work, and pulled out my backpack.
By the time I was finished packing up my bag, there were only three minutes left until the day ended. I walked slowly back to class, because I knew I would have to return by the last minute, or I would just end up with a ten minute lecture about the importance of this class and blah blah blah. I went to the gym again, peeking into the small windows of the double doors to make sure that no one was there.
There was someone in there. Of course there was. It was just my luck. The only way back to the other side of the hallway, where I needed to be able to pretend I was in the bathroom the whole time. My only choice now was too either go outside, but the school doors would probably be locked and I’d have to call into the office to get in and explain why I was outside and…
So outside was out of the question. I could also walk down the hall like a normal person, but I’d approach the door from the wrong side. Chances are, no one would notice, but I wasn’t really in the mood to take home a detention slip.
I peeked into the gym again, and glared at the person, even though I knew they couldn’t see me through the tinted windows.
And then I took a double take. Shay.
What the hell was Shay doing here?
She wasn’t on the phone, she wasn’t with anyone, she was just…
Just walking back and forth. I watched her for another second, before turning away. I would have to hope no one noticed me coming in from the wrong side of the door.
Coffee was boring. Listening to Shay and Vici gossiping about everyone who happened by wasn’t my idea of fun. But as I tapped my fingers on the desk, I bit my lip with sudden gratefulness that I was not like Meg, who was eight months pregnant, or Jules, the father of the babe who would have to quit school soon enough to work. That will never be you, I reminded myself. Never. I bit my lip harder, tasting blood. My eyes lingered on that same red head from before, who had evidently also had plans with her friends.
“Hey, what about her?” I ask, looking up at the red head, who had her head back, and was laughing loudly.
“Who?” Shay turned to me and followed my gaze. “Oh, her. I don’t even know her name.”
“You know everyone's name,” Victoria pointed out.
“And besides,” I added, “She’s in our team.” Teams. Our school was big, so they split each grade into three groups called teams. The teams were like one grade in a smaller school. They dined together, and they mixed for classes. I didn’t even know anyone who wasn’t in my team, but this redhead had been in my health class, so she must be in our team.
“No she’s not.” Shay argued, but she was fidgeting with her bracelets like she often did when she was nervous.
“Yes, actually, she is. She’s in my health class” Shay stared at me. “And our math class,” I added, thinking back.
“Yeah, c’mon Shay, what’s her story?”
“Fiiiiinnnneeeee.” Shay shrugged as if it were nothing. “I’ve been trying to get her in the group.”
That got our attention. I spun to face her. “WHAT?!” We both cried out in unison. This was unlike Shay. Normally, she would reject someone so perfect, for fear that they might take her place.
Shay’s shoulders hunched as she backed down a little. “She’s kind of… perfect. See how she laughs. Not at all the unattractive whimper we had to beat out of you.” she gestured to me. “I heard she’s still a virgin too.”
I looked back at the girl. “Wonder why,” I said, “She’s gorgeous. Look at her. I wonder how long it takes to curl her hair.”
“She’s been asked out by practically every boy in the school, but she always refuses,” Victoria said.
I glanced back at her. “Did you know about this?”
She shook her head. “No, but I heard that Derik asked her out, and she refused.” Ugh. Derik. Everything was always Derik this and Derik that. He was apparently the hottest guy in the school, but he was pretty thick headed. And besides, I knew I would never like him, even if he wasn’t such an idiot. Even if he liked me.
Shay sighed. “Derik. Damn, he’s such an idiot. What the hell do people see in him?”
I smiled. Derik was one of the things Shay and I never failed to agree on. “I have no clue. I bet he didn’t even like her."
Shay smiled. "I bet he’s gay.” She rolled her eyes.
I burst out laughing, trying to imagine Derik kissing another man. I put my head in my hands, falling into silence and sighing. I stayed there a second too long.
They don’t know, I reminded myself again and again. They don’t know. They can’t know. If they knew, I wouldn’t be here. I would have been kicked out long ago. They don’t know. They don’t know.
I took a deep breath and looked up, still smiling out of habit. Damn, that redhead was gorgeous.
“So,” I say, looking at Shay’s smirk. “What’s her name?”